Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kevin's Final Blog

My common theme for our trip was the idea of freedom. It just kept coming up in different ways.

Charleston, SC - Fort Sumpter was the site of a long seige during the Civil War.

Savannah, GA - saw the plantation of a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Montgomery, AL - MLK pastored here and ran the bus boycott, which was started by Rosa Parks in the downtown area.

New Orleans - OK, Bourbon Street was pretty much about being free to do anything you want.

Asheville, NC - the Biltmore Estate was definitely not free!

Monticello - We are lucky that Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and the others somehow converged at the same time and place to produce a document that changed the world.

There were many other things we saw related to native Americans, slavery, American independence and various wars that seemed to all make me think about freedom many times as we traveled. Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for other family trip summaries....Kevin

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In the Boonies

Sorry - we have not had internet access the last two nights. Let me catch you up very quickly.

Tuesday: Woke up and visited a friend's home. The house had 240 rooms, including 99 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms. It sat on some 8000 acres in Asheville, North Carolina and sported a beautiful view of the mountains. All the furnishings were original from 100+ years ago. Amazing. You may have guessed the house does not belong to a friend of ours, but to george Vanderbilt. It's the biggest private residence in the US, and was a neat place to see. It's hard to believe people lived like this.

Later, we finished our driving for the day in Natural Bridge, VA. This is the site of an unusual geological formation that forms a huge bridge taller than Niagara Falls and weighs an estimated 72 million pounds in granite. They figure it took millions of years to form through erosion. George Washington first surveyed it when he was 18. Word about it got out, and Thomas Jefferson thought it so impressive that he bought it in a land grant from the King. In colonial times, it was considered one of the top natural wonders of the New World. Now, it's a tourist trap, but since I read a biography on Washington and Jefferson, and both books mentioned it, I really wanted to see it.

Wednesday: Visited Monticello and reconfirmed the brilliance of Thomas Jefferson in his day. Although the house seemed plain compared to our Biltmore visit the day before, it was still great to walk in the steps of such a visionary man. After Monticello, we stopped in to see the University of Virginia, which Jefferson founded. It's a very nice campus! Then we drove Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Forest. We were fortunate to come across a black bear cub on the drive! We all loved that so much. We ended our drive in Luray, VA at the Brookside Cabins. After our night in the Natural Bridge Inn, which was once an historic and fabled hotel but has since gone into some disrepair, I was a little nervous about my reservation at the cabins. But when we arrived, I was relieved to find a really quaint, clean cabin with 2 bedrooms (privacy, at last!). What a wonderful place to spend our final night away from home.

Thursday: Our horseback trail-riding was derailed by heavy rain, so we headed home early. When we arrived, we were greeted by two very, very happy dogs! Please come back and read our final blog; we will each summarize our travels in our own unique perspectives!

Cheers, Kevin

Monday, August 3, 2009

Nashville to Asheville

Today we left Grandpa and Grandma in Nashville and headed up to Asheville. The most exciting and only thing we did today was travel through the Smoky Mountains. We stopped on a lot of the pull-offs to take good pictures. I wanted to go hiking this trip so we went to part of the Appalachian Mountains to go on a hiking trail - the Appalachian Trail! We ended up hiking 3 miles on wet, slippery, muddy, and unstable(some) rocks and tree roots. You can't go hiking without somebody falling so I took the honors. I slipped on a big rock and slid down a couple more rocks. Luckly, I didn't bleed. I can't believe we see Hershey and Molly in only three more days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Touring Nashville

Today we actually did some touring of the Nashville area (we sort of needed to, it was our last full day in Nashville). We started our day in the town of Hermitage, about 20 minutes out of downtown Nashville. Hemitage is home to "The Hermitage." This was President Andrew Jackson's home. It was a huge estate that at one time needed around 150 slaves to run the plantation. The place was very well done and almost everything in the house was the same as when the family left it. There was so much to see there that you could really spend a whole day but we had to leave after 2 1/2 hours without doing the whole thing if we wanted to see downtown Nashville at all. It's probably kind of boring reading about what we did in Nashville but I'll tell you anyways. We pretty much walked up and down Broadway street (the honky-tonk area) looking at shops and stores. We also walked down to the water front at the end of the street, saw the old Grand Ole Oply building, and a little section of a fort (nothing overly exciting). Lauryn and I got cowboy hats and we all found some souvenirs. I think we have done our share for the economy today! Oh yeah, tonight we went through the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Gorgeous!!! Gardens everywhere and a river running right through it with some shops and retaurants acting like an island inside! I told everyone that if I got famous and/or rich, I would bring them back to stay in that hotel.

We'll be home soon but tomorrow we have to say good-bye to Grandma and Grandpa. They'll be flying home Tuesday and we leave for Asheville in tomorrow morning, but it's been great traveling with them!

Lynsey (sorry.......I know...... too long)

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Hi ya'll,

We spent the day getting some of the local Nashville flavor by going to two shows. The first was a fiddler/comedian aboard a paddle steamboat on the Cumberland River. He did a great version of the Devil went down to Georgia, and was pretty funny too.

This evening, we went to the Grand Ole Opry. We didn't know any of the acts, but a lot of the audience seemed to, including Kevin's Dad. We did recognize some tunes. One was the Rocky Point Tennessee which was performed by the man who wrote it in the sixties. The show is really a radio broadcast, so there were many breaks for commercials, during which they would set up the equipment and mics for the next act. Most acts performed just one song, and the more current acts would only get two. Not music we usually listen to, but it was fun to hear all the variety in one show.

It was nice to come back to the same hotel instead of the constant changing in the past week! Hope you are all doing great! Kevin

made it to Nashville

We completed the final 200 miles of the trace on Friday bringing us to Nashville late Fri evening. The big hits of the day were the vistitor center that gave a nice video of the trail, stopping for ice cream in a SMALL town called Collinswood. We had to go to the corner Hasti Mart which was the corner gas station and eatery. The girls quickly picked up that it was the town gathering spot with everyone greeting people by name as they entered. It was a neat glimpse of how small town USA is. Another side trip and highlight was to Tuscumbia, AL, the hometown of Helen Keller. It was a great site with her orginal house and most of the furnishings inside. The museum there was also well done with so many of her items and pictures. One thing that we learned was that she is buried in the National Catherdral in Wash. DC. Even though we have been there a few times we never knew that and were told that they don't tell people that fact often unless you ask about it........They told us there was a great town park we could picnic at so we headed there before making our way back on the road. Expecting a plot of land with a few trees was not what we should have been thinking. It was a huge amazing area with a lake filled with swans and geese, a water fall, a big playground, a merry go round and a train that circled the open picnic areas. How fun. Lauryn fed the geese the crust off her sandwhich feeling bad that she didn't have enough for all 75 or so geese!! Back on the trace, at our next stopt we hiked to a creek hoping to see beavers but saw nothing except a park ranger. We told her what other stops we were making along the trail and she said that she would be making a presentation at the next one. It was the Meriweather Lewis memorial site where he died and was buried. Four years ago when we drove out west we learned about and followed at times the Lewis and Clark trail. It was nice to have that background when visiting here. From here we drove on a part of the original trace and found another hiking trail. This time not only did we see a beaver dam but the beaver as well. What a treat. Our last stop was the Jackson Falls which was a steep 900 foot hike down to peaceful and beautiful falls. Quite a kodak location. Wildlife that we saw today, besides the beaver, was deer, wild turkeys, turkey vultures, skunk and 2 dogs (both that belong to people living along the trace - not strays) We have been amazed how few people have been traveling on the trace - we would be the only car for miles on end and the only people at the stops along the way. At the visitors center we did see two other people!! The last 20 miles or so we were all done with the trail and eager to make it to Nashville.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

natchez trace

We continued our travels along the Natchez Trace today from Jackson MS to Tupelo MS. We spotted some wild life as well including an owl, lots of wild turkey, an armadillo and Donna's favorite a big snake making it's way across the road!! The scenery is very pretty but the novelty of a dirt path and Indian dirt mounds are starting to lose its appeal to the girls. We arrived in Tupelo MS later in the afternoon so we went to Elvis Presley's birth home and museum and of course they also had a gift shop. The weather has been clear during the day but both last night and tonight there have been some pretty violent thunderstorms. It looks like it is the same system that is hitting PA as well. We have about 200 miles left on the trace tomorrow taking us through 3 states and ending in Nashville.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

feeding the alligators

This morning we went on a swamp tour. The best thing there was watching the tour guide feed the alligators marshmallows and lady fingers (hot dogs). We also saw baby turtles, blue herons, egrets and some more hurricane Katrina destruction. I wish we could have seen the male alligator because it is about 20 feet long. We only saw females which grow up 8 feet long. All of the baby alligators stay away from the female alligator named black jaw because the females sometimes eat the babies. There were no misquitos there because they get eaten by the all the dragonflies that fly around. After that we drove into Missisippi to the Natchez Trace. The Natchez Trace is an Indian trail that leads from Natchez Mississippi to Nashville Tenn. that was used for trading and to carry information. Like yesterday it started to pour rain in the afternoon. We are staying in Jackson, Mississippi tonight.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Our Day in New Orleans

On Monday, we left the reunion site and made our way along the Gulf Coast, going the long way so we could see any remaining effects from Katrina. Starting in Biloxi, Mississippi, we saw many vacant lots long the beachfront, mostly for sale. In many of them, there were just remnants of what used to be quite grand beach homes - sometimes just the front steps left, or a fence, a foundation, or a pool. As we drove into New Orleans East, you could see from the highway many abandoned homes, or ones in great disrepair but still occupied. It was surprising to us how much there is left to rebuild.

We checked into a very cool hotel in the French Quarter. It used to be a school for boys in the early 1800's. There was an historic courtyard in the middle of the hotel, and our rooms had walkout balconies where you could sit and look through the iron lacework at the narrow street below. We went out that evening and walk the Quarter, eventually finding our way to Acme Oyster Bar, which according to a local cop, had good red beans and rice (a requirement for Kevin). We had a nice dinner, then walked around some more, eventually taking the girls on an "educational tour" of Bourbon Street!

For dessert, we went to the Cafe du Monde and enjoyed the famous, and very delicious, beignets. They are a fried, flaky pastry sprinkled heavily with powdered sugar. The place never closes, and if you look under each of the tables, you see the floor covered with the white powder. We added our own to the mix!

After dessert, Kevin's dad, Donna, and Kevin went over to Preservation Hall and listened to two sets by their jazz group. The musicians were amazing, and it was great listening to such fun music in such an historic venue. It's a really small room, dark, with only eight wooden benches (which everyone fights for). All others stand for the set.

Tuesday morning, we did a little shopping and a walking tour of the rest of the French Quarter, then checked out. Our plan to go on a Swamp Tour was thwarted when the thunderstorms began. So, we got a new reservation for the tour, changed hotels and are now just sitting around. The girls are doing summer homework! We'll let you know how the Swamp Tour is tomorrow...if we survive the alligators!


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Water Fun

Today is our last full day at the Cooper Family Reunion. The whole family packed up after breakfast and went to a state park beach. The sand was snow powder white and soft and the water was the turqoise emerald color, just as everyone promised us. We did get a little worried when we pulled up and saw that there was a dangerous marine animals warning. However, we could see right to the floor of the ocean and no marine animals!! The water was refreshing, not too cold or hot, and the waves were surprisingly big (good for body surfing :]) The whole family had tons of fun and went back to the camp. The four of us went kayaking again briefly and are just hanging out now. We've had a great time at the reunion, in a great location, but can't wait to see New Orleans tomorrow!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cooper Reunion

We spent Friday in Montgomery AL, visiting the Civil Rights Memorial which was very moving. It is amazing to realize that so much of that happened just 40 years ago!! We also took the opportunity to go through the Rosa Parks Museum and see the bus on which she was arrested. From there we made our way to Niceville Fl for the reunion. It is a resort town on the gulf of Mexico. We spent Sat morning riding the pontoon boat out into the bay. We were not too far out when we came along about 10 dolphins swimming and jumping out of the water. It was a spectacular sight to see!! They were just along side of the boat. About 20 more minutes out and an alarm on the boat went off and the motor shut itself down. Giving the engine a few minute break we were luckily able to restart and turn for home not sure what had happened.
The afternoon the PA Coopers took out the kayaks and paddled around the bay for a couple of hours. We will be here until Monday when we head over to New Orleans.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Catching Up from Alabama's been awhile since I've had a chance to write anything but I'll update you on the past couple of days. After spending the night in Charleston we visited Fort Sumter the next morning in the rain. It was neat to see the old, but inactive, shells in the walls. The day's weather turned good for the rest of day as we took a carrige ride throught the town. The old buildings and homes were really cool! Then we drove to Hilton Head to spend..can you believe it..2 nights at mom's uncle's summer home where we were at the beach the whole day. The water was 87degrees and like swimming in a pool plus starfish and live sand dollars. It was a little calm in the morning for what we like and are used to (practically no waves) but the afternoon proved better. It got more choppy and was soooo much fun.

The next day we got to another new state.....Georgia!! We stopped in Savannah but only had about 5 hours there. So we decided to take an hop on-and-off sightseeing trolley which was worth it. We stopped at a sweet shop on the river and got salt water taffy and tried pralines (which are really,really good). Finally, for today. We drove to Montgomery, Alabama (I have now been to 30 states) but stopped on the way to see ancient Indian mounds. They were cool to see that people actually had a society there so long ago and the artifacts archaeologists have found. During the rest of the way to Montgomery, we saw a sign for peaches and peach ice cream since Georgia is the peach state. We got to see a little factory in production and the ice cream was amazing!!! So now we are here in Montgomery and I know I said I was going to shorten my blog this time but I really had to catch you up.

Lynsey :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

made it to GA

It is Wednesday evening and the girls are taking advantage of the hotel pool. We spent the past two days traveling from NC to GA. Monday we were in Charlestown NC. Took a great horse drawn carraige ride to get a feel for the town - I took in all the pretty houses and Lauryn spent most of the ride taking pictures of all the other horses pulling carts that passed us. We visited Ft Sumter early in the day feeling confident that both Lauryn and Lynsey were able to tell us what happened there before we went on the tour. Score 1 for PA public education. From here we went to Hilton Head SC to stay at my Uncle's house. It was absolutely beautiful and loved catching up with my cousin and her family. The girls spent just about the entire day at the beach and never seemed to grow tired of body surfing. We did not have internet access to couldn't keep the blog updated.

After hearing strange sounds from the car we spent this morning at the Honda dealership - couldn't find anything wrong but did a safety inspection anyway. Things looked okay and of course no strange sounds were heard by the mechanic. So onward we forged still hearing a few interesting noises but things are good if you just turn up the radio!! Got to Savanah GA later than we wanted but did a city trolley tour that let us get on and off when we saw something that interested us. What a neat city and the river front is really cute. That brings us to tonight in GA and the girls blowing off some energy before we call it a night. They are enjoying hearing ya'all everywhere we go.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Duke or UNC?

After seeing a little bit of both campuses today, the big question is...

Which do we like better?

Duke, with its beautiful and pristine campus, or University of North Carolina, 2009 National Basketball Champs?
The Gallup Poll of all Coopers in our car came back with the following result...
Duke - 4
UNC - 0
Maybe we just don't like basketball that much.

College Road Trip

Hey Guys! Lynsey here. Like I don't have enough summer work to do for school Dad wants Lauryn and me to write a blog every day. It's all good though because this is an exciting trip. We decided this morning to go about an hour and a half out of our way to visit Duke University. It was worth it because the campus was gorgeous with 50 acres of gardens and those cool looking Notre Dame-like buildings. UNC's campus was so close that we went there after. My aunt went to Duke and wanted us to get her a sweatshirt but their bookshop was closed so we got her a UNC surprise instead. Haha! After a long, long drive in the car we got to our hotel on an island opposite Charleston across the Charleston Harbor (the bridge was gigantic) and finally had dinner at Sticky Fingers. I'm new at this so sorry it's so long but see ya till tomorrow!

Big car day

We drove 2 hours to Duke University. We ate lunch there in the swinging picnic tables. After lunch we drove about 10 miles to University of North Carolina (UNC). Did you know that UNC doesn't have any ice cream on the campus? So we had to walk 1 mile to find an ice cream place. We got back to the car and drove 5 and a half hours to our hotel in Charleston, South Carolina. After eating dinner at Sticky Fingers we went to the pool. Since it was night time the pool lights were on which made the pool seem like a dark green cave.Good Night!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

First Day

After a great morning of swimming at the summer league championships, the Coopers set out on their big summer car trip down to a family reunion in Niceville, FL. We made good time all the way down I-95 until we got to Virginia, and then things slowed way, way down. Instead of sitting in traffic, we got off the road and ended up in Fredericksburg. It has a great historical downtown area where we ate dinner, then on the way out, we took a mini-tour of the University of Mary Washington.

We'll keep you posted on our trip as we go!